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Nurse Negotiations

Editorial: Labor movement?

Given recent events in the world, it’s understandable that many people want to latch on to good news.

And having such news be here in Franklin County, well, that’s an extra bonus.

Fortunately, we’re hearing that there have been some positive discussions in the ongoing contract talks between Baystate Franklin Medical Center management and the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses here, even a glimmer that a settlement can be reached.

“We all, on our side of the table, felt very encouraged with the discussion that both sides are trying to meet each other,” Linda Judd, co-chair of the local bargaining unit, told The Recorder Wednesday. “We’re not going to all get everything we want but we’re definitely closer.”

For its part, the hospital — through spokeswoman Amy Swisher — was more reserved in characterizing recent events, saying that the hospital and the MNA had “... exchanged proposals in writing and had discussions about some creative solutions to reaching an agreement.”

Again, Franklin County residents will take what they can get in the way of good news on this labor front. It just five months shy of two years that the nurses and hospital have been at odds over a contract. During that time, there’ve been plenty of talks between the two — 33 negotiating sessions, with another scheduled for May 22 — and also significant efforts to sway public opinion one way or the other.

Perhaps, too, that public opinion has had a influence in nudging both sides toward more productive conversations. It can’t be coincidence that following a community forum on health care, the hospital and the community that on a number of town meeting warrants this spring, there are motions that address the hospital and the desire by residents to see medical services here preserved.

After all, at the heart of contract talks is the county’s only hospital and the community it serves in providing medical care. And we want to think that all are not only aware of that but subscribe to thinking that Baystate Franklin Medical Center is too important to become something less.

So we urge the two sides in this talks to continue to seek compromise that will result not only in a contract but in a collaborative effort in meeting the challenges that face the health care system.

Let’s have more good news, and soon.

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